New York University Creative Writing Online

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With so much seemingly working against it, it is astounding the degree has gained traction at all.

A.-less,” says Junot Díaz, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author and M. A.-holder who has been a vocal critic of the degree.

“Most critiques I read of creative writing programs or writing in the academy are kicking entities that don’t actually (in my experience) exist.”Karen Russell, whose book “Swamplandia! Iowa, Syracuse University, Vanderbilt University, the University of Wisconsin and the University of Michigan also have fully funded programs. Low-residency programs typically offer no grants or T. Before that, says Leslie Epstein, who was the director for 36 years before stepping down last year, it too lost students to schools with better aid packages, prompting it to up its game.

Some elite, smaller programs waive tuition and provide a stipend (Hopkins pays $30,000 a year, Cornell $26,000) for every student, typically requiring work in a related position, such as being a teaching assistant. programs is likely to be partial, if available at all. Brooklyn College may seem a bargain at $14,580 in tuition for its two-year program ($20,700, out of state) but the program loses talent to schools that provide full tuition remission and stipends, Ms. The class entering Boston University’s one-year creative writing program this fall will be the first in which all students receive a full tuition waiver and a $12,800 stipend.

That, she says, goes hand in hand with a focus on reinvigorating urban communities through theater, art installations, food culture and centers for literature and writing. Some distinguish themselves by focusing on thematic writing. Studio programs mimic conservatories and focus exclusively on the writing craft. program last May, says that once out of the cocoon, degree holders face a tough adjustment to the unstructured writing life, and the grind of sending work to multiple journals and receiving multiple rejections, if they hear back at all. Kanakia is more fortunate than most, with pending publication of a young adult novel begun at Hopkins.)Chris Brecheen, who blogs on the M.

Among them: the pervasiveness of digital media and celebrity culture, where anyone with a blog feels like a best-selling novelist-in-waiting; the rise of memoirs, a natural extension of the online selfie writing culture; the popularity of magical realism and noir fiction novels, which have turned many 20-somethings on to literature; and changes in generational attitudes, aspirations and culture.“The younger generation is making career choices determined by quality of life,” says Jeannine Blackwell, dean-in-residence at the Council of Graduate Schools and a professor at the University of Kentucky. Barth, a National Book Award winner in 1973, called his students “advanced apprentices.”M. Students have come to expect education to be prescriptive, she says. They allow students to test their stamina (and talent) for what Timothy Donnelly, chairman of the Writing Program at Columbia, calls a “radical lifestyle choice.”The best also hone technique and train students to read analytically. Donnelly puts it, students develop an appreciation for the “sensuous aspect of language” and the ability to translate their experience of life onto the page. “And then I think, ‘Well, let’s roll up our sleeves.’ ”Creative writing programs are designed as studio or academic models. They typically offer fiction and poetry tracks, though “creative nonfiction” is gaining ground, as are screenwriting and playwriting. programs are low-residency — they meet for about two weeks on campus or some other on-ground spot (New York University, for example, gathers low-residency students in Paris); the rest of the semester is conducted online. and is contemplating pursuing the degree, says: “What writers don’t understand is that there is little pragmatic about the M. A.” Of a dozen writer friends who went on to earn M. A.s, most, he says, are now doing “whatever they might have done before getting the degree,” including restaurant management, real estate and writing Web content.

A.s now.”That’s not necessarily a negative notion, according to Dr. Harbach (who received a 0,000 advance for his first novel, “The Art of Fielding”).

They see a self-generating track to the literary establishment, on which the most fortunate jump to fellowships, writing colonies, agents, publishing deals and professorships, where they are indoctrinated into the status quo.

Between 3,000 and 4,000 students a year graduate with the degree; this year, about 20,000 applications were sent out. Last year, he edited a book of essays, with the same title, on the credential’s influence. Harbach describes two centers of American fiction: New York City, the traditional hub, and M. A., the encroaching university writing program, or “the M.

By last year, that number had more than tripled, to 229 (and another 152 M. programs in creative writing), according to the Association of Writers and Writing Programs.

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